Last week at this time, we were laughing at the Big East for being a weak conference, despite all the late winter talk about it being the best in college basketball. The evidence proffered was the number of teams left in the tournament. By that logic, the best conferences in college basketball at this moment are the Big East, the SEC, the Horizon League, and the good old Colonial Athletic Association.
Do you believe that? You have to, if you believe that the NCAA Champion is the best team in college basketball. Oftentimes it is, but the lose-and-you're-done can undo any potential champion on any given off night. No postseason is perfect, but try explaining March Madness to an alien: the NCAA Champion is the team that wins six games in a row (seven for VCU). That's it.
The regular season is, in essence, meaningless beyond giving the high seeds an easier path. (And that doesn't always work out either, as VCU got in with wins over fellow low seed FSU, as well as mercurial Georgetown and Purdue — a path that any team would gladly have.) All of the 68 teams start over in March, even ones that might have struggled in the regular season. Like, say, losing five out of their last seven, and drawing the scorn of Vitale, Bilas and Lunardi on national TV. VCU's a hot team, but one of the best four teams of 2010-11?
It's sacrilege to say, but in point of fact, college football does a better job than college basketball of crowning the best team in the sport. You can't slip up, not at any time. That old BCS talking point is actually true: the regular season matters. But there are two large reasons that will keep us from abandoning the Tournament format to throw our support behind the BCS.
First, too inclusive is better than too exclusive. I'd rather scores of undeserving teams have a shot at the crown than one deserving team, like TCU, never even get their chance.
Second, thanks to teams like VCU or Butler, one of which will make the title game, the Tournament is just a hell of a lot more fun.
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